Recently, a friend told me about an article on nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant, that was written by a physician who vilified these vegetables. That inspired me to do some research and write this article.
Nightshade vegetables belong to the family of plants with the Latin name Solanaceae. This family includes over 2,000 different plants, some of which are edible and some poisonous (such as belladonna). The most notable edible plants include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos and eggplants. Multiple herbs and spices are also derived from these vegetables, including cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper, chili powder and paprika.
These edible plants are highly nutrient dense, which means that they pack a nutritional punch, and are recommended to be eaten as part of a healthy diet by doctors and nutritionists alike. Below is a listing from Authority Nutrition.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes are good sources of vitamins A and C. They also contain an antioxidant called lycopene. These nutrients may reduce markers of inflammation and lower the risk of several chronic diseases.
- Peppers: Peppers contain incredible amounts of vitamin C, which can provide many health benefits, including helping enhance iron absorption.
- Chili peppers: Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which gives the peppers their heat. Capsaicin has been found to help alleviate heartburn symptoms and may benefit weight loss efforts by helping reduce calorie intake.
- Eggplants: Eggplants are a good source of dietary fiber, providing 2.5 grams of fiber per cup. This important nutrient helps regulate bowel movements and may lower your risk of heart disease.
- Potatoes: Potatoes with the skins on contain fair amounts of potassium, vitamin B6 and manganese.
Are Nightshades Safe to Eat?
The knock on nightshades is the claim that the edible portions of these plants contain some alkaloids. Consequently, many people with autoimmune diseases have eliminated nightshades from their diets and believe these foods are contributing to their health problems, due to the alkaloids.
There is limited research on nightshades, with most of it being on animals and in test tubes. Studies suggest that people with IBD (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) may benefit from eliminating or reducing nightshade intake. But research is needed in humans before more definitive recommendations can be made.
Other groups claim that eliminating nightshades will improve health, if one has a “food sensitivity” to nightshades. One of these groups of people is those with arthritis, as some claim that eliminating nightshades provides pain relief. In addition to nightshade sensitivities, in rare cases, some people have allergies to specific nightshade vegetables. Symptoms of an allergy vary but can include skin rashes, hives, itching in the throat, swelling and difficulty breathing. However, to be clear, there is no scientific data that supports these claims.
If you are healthy and do not have adverse reactions to nightshades, there is no compelling reason to avoid them. They’re rich in nutrients and offer several potential health benefits. On the other hand, if you have an autoimmune condition like IBD or think you may be sensitive to nightshades, you may want to consider removing them from your diet to evaluate changes in symptoms.